The classic bread stuffing was not the norm in our family; I think mostly because no one really knew how to make it. My sister-in-law once asked me if Italians stuffed their turkeys with pasta. I’ve never met anyone who did, but I guess you can stuff a turkey with just about anything when you think about it.
This is my grandmother Vincenza’s recipe for rice stuffing, which graced our Thanksgiving table every year. I now serve it alongside with bread stuffing because it’s a family favorite and Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without it. All the ingredients give a complex flavor to this dish and the chestnuts add to its richness. It may seem like a lot of preparation in comparison to bread stuffing; however it can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated. I guarantee it is worth the effort!
You can stuff the turkey with this dressing or bake it separately. It makes enough to stuff a 12 to 16 pound turkey.
NONNA VINCENZA’S CHESTNUT RICE STUFFING
Difficulty Rating: Easy to Medium
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
1/2 pound fresh chestnuts or vacuum-packed chestnuts (about 1 cup coarsely chopped)
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1 (8-ounce) package coarsely chopped white button or crimini mushrooms with stems
1 pound ground beef or sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or 3/4 Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup raisins
Salt and freshly ground pepper
l. ROAST THE CHESTNUTS: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using a small, sharp paring knife, cut a 3/4-inch gash horizontally across the skin of each nut, cutting through the shell. Place on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, until chestnuts are tender inside.
While still hot, carefully remove the shells and interior skin (pellicle). Once the chestnuts are cool, they will be difficult to peel. Coarsely chop.
2. MAKE THE STUFFING: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart covered casserole dish.
Bring the broth to boil in a covered medium saucepan. Add rice and cook covered over low heat until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
Using a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add celery and onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add to rice.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat, using the same frying pan. Add mushrooms and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add to rice mixture
Heat the frying pan on high and brown the ground beef or sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon until browned and cooked through. Add to rice mixture.
Stir in parsley, grated cheese, chestnuts, pine nuts, and raisins. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into the casserole dish and bake covered for 25-30 minutes.